Sunday, August 17, 2003

Phillies 5, Cardinals 4

Earlier in the season, when the Phillies were reintroducing themselves to Philadelphia after an extensive off-season makeover, a group of young fans took to honoring one of the newcomers with a sign in the upper deck of the outfield that read "Thome's Homies."

I haven't seen that sign at Veterans Stadium in a while, but Jim Thome doesn't seem to mind. Last night, for the second straight night, Thome climbed out of the dugout for a curtain call after blasting a key home run, this one a bomb to centerfield that gave the Phils a one-run lead over St. Louis in the sixth. Mike Lieberthal followed Thome's at-bat with a poke into the leftfield bullpen, and his solo shot turned out to be the difference after the Cardinals plated a run in the seventh.

While Scott Rolen, who must want in the worst way to shut up the Vet's clueless, classless masses, made up for Friday's hitless night with a dinger and a double, the more significant storyline was the reintroduction of Jose Mesa as the Phillies' closer. A couple of weeks ago, after more than a season of living on the edge, Mitch Williams-style, Mesa turned in one cover-your-eyes appearance too many, and was shipped to Joe Kerrigan's We Fix Pitchers chop-shop. That he hadn't been yanked even earlier in the year was amazing; a limp fastball and a tendency to begin every ninth inning with a four-pitch walk have been Mesa's hallmarks over the last season and a half.

The Phillies closed by committee while Kerrigan tuned up Mesa, and they did a decent job in his absence. With the sound on my TV down, I wasn't able to hear the crowd's reaction when he strolled in from the rightfield bullpen to start the ninth last night. But when Mesa got the first strike on Albert Pujols, then threw four straight balls, I easily imagined the uneasy murmuring rippling through the stands. In many, many ways, that, and not anything churned out by Gamble and Huff, is the Sound of Philadelphia.

He recovered, though, inducing a popup out of Tino Martinez. That brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of Rolen, who, as noted above, had already had himself quite a game. To the delight of most of the 35,000 in attendance, Mesa, after giving up a couple of hard fouls down the left-field line, whiffed Rolen on a dangerous fastball just above the belt and right down the middle. Bo Hart then punched out on a breaking ball in the dirt, and the Phillies maintained their half-game wild-card lead over the Fish, who just refuse to lose. Credit Brett Myers with the win and, yes, Jose Mesa, Joe Table himself, with the save.

Amaury Telemaco returns to major league action for the first time in two seasons tonight, as the Phillies attempt a sweep of the Cardinals on national television. Telemaco takes Brandon Duckworth's spot in the rotation, and is attempting to complete a comeback from major shoulder surgery in 2001. A win would be enormous, a great chance to build momentum before a brutal two-week road trip and to bury St. Louis even further in the wild card standings.


Post a Comment

<< Home